Mahmoudieh El Cheikh with baby Yasmine El Cheikh. Photo: Supplied
A mother whose two-month-old baby died following treatment in the Canberra Hospital is fighting for her last chance at compensation from the government.
Mahmoudieh El Cheikh took her dehydrated daughter Yasmine to the Canberra Hospital on April 9, 2003, the second time in less than a week.
A nurse in the emergency department told her not to worry, because her baby wasn't dying.
Nine days later, Yasmine was dead.
The death prompted a complaint to the health watchdog, who in turn criticised the hospital over a string of ''serious issues'' with Yasmine's care.
Ultimately, the then Community and Health Services Complaints Commissioner found in 2004 there was no evidence to suggest the care lessened her chance of surviving a rare respiratory disorder that left her with a bleak prognosis.
The mother launched legal action against the government in the ACT Supreme Court in 2008, starting a five-year battle that may be nearing its end.
Her lawyer, John O'Keefe, is expected to try to change the mother's statement of claim in the ACT Supreme Court on Friday, in what may be the last chance for her to get compensation.
''It is clear that the hospital made mistakes, which made the whole situation worse than it needed to be for the mother, if not the child,'' Mr O'Keefe said.
''But instead of trying to settle the claim, the government has tried to defeat it on medical and legal technicalities.''
Despite the findings that the treatment did not lessen Yasmine's chance of survival, a number of failings in the care were identified.
At one point, she had been undressed, and left in her nappy. She was cold and crying, and the mother said she had pleaded with the nurse to do something to help her daughter.
She said the nurse replied: ''Your baby is not dying; if she was, we would do something.''
Staff took an hour to begin intravenous fluids for Yasmine, despite emergency department records stating the presenting problem was dehydration.
The hospital also failed to note or record advice from Yasmine's paediatrician, who had dealt with problems after her birth, and seen her earlier that week.
The paediatrician called the hospital registrar before the baby was admitted, but the advice was not recorded, something described by the health watchdog as a ''serious omission''.
The medical records also showed it took two hours for Yasmine to be seen by a doctor in the emergency department.
She was admitted to another ward, and her ability to breathe deteriorated rapidly, prompting staff to call a code blue. That led to further problems, according to the Health Services Complaints Commissioner's office.
''It appears the Paediatric Registrar experienced difficulties in arranging for a senior and experienced clinician to attend, and that there was significant confusion as to the hospital's policies and protocols for managing a medical emergency involving an infant,'' the commissioner found.
''From the records, it appears that almost an hour elapsed between the arrival of the Code Blue Team and the arrival of a senior and experienced clinician.''
The commissioner acknowledged the paediatric registrar ''suffered the unfortunate and unexpected coming together of events'' that made it difficult to get hold of senior staff.
But the report also expressed concerns that staff with skills in paediatric life support were ''few and far between''.
Yasmine was later flown to Westmead Hospital, in Sydney, where she died.
The commissioner's office was critical of the hospital's failure to listen to the concerns of the mother and of referring doctors, as well as the lack of availability of intensive care beds and related medical and nursing staff.
The watchdog made nine recommendations to the hospital, and set up conciliation talks between the mother and medical staff.
ACT Health was asked for a response on Thursday, but did not respond in time.